Environmental Engineering Program


Date of this Version

Spring 4-22-2011


A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Environmental Engineering, Under the Supervision of Professor George E. Meyer. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2011
Copyright 2011 David Michael Mabie


The primary goal of this paper was to increase profitability in Nebraska greenhouses by using biomass fuels for heating instead of propane. Several different fuels were tested, including whole shelled corn, dry distiller’s grains pelletized, wood pellets and blends between each biomass. The main fuel focus was on whole shelled corn. Bomb calorimetry tests were performed on biomass fuels and their respective ashes. Several furnace and heat exchanger efficiency tests were performed, with cost effectiveness analysis for each fuel type. Emissions data was also collected for each fuel on carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides, sulfuric oxides, and particulate matter. The project used a biomass furnace donated to a greenhouse at Firth, Nebraska and an existing propane furnace. Although the biomass furnace generally had a lower efficiency than the 81 percent advertised for the propane furnace, the biomass fuels were more cost effective than propane. The biomass efficiencies typically ranged between 50 and 80 percent. Over a four year period (2008-2011) the cost savings of biomass fuels ranged between 30 and 60 percent and totaled a little over $15,000. Overall, biomass furnaces show great potential to be utilized in Nebraska greenhouses.

Advisor: George E. Meyer